Public school bullying reports sensationalised, says AEU

by Brett Henebery16 Jul 2015

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has hit out at what it calls “sensationalised” reports suggesting bullying is more common in public schools than in private schools.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA) survey, released on Wednesday, revealed that public high school students – particularly girls – were twice as likely to be the victims of bullying as their peers in private schools.

The survey, commissioned by the Federal Department of Social Services, interviewed more than 13,000 people each year between 2001 and 2012.  

However, the Australian Education Union (AEU) said the reports that followed the survey had been “sensationalised”, adding that a Fairfax article published yesterday oversimplified statistics comparing the level of bullying in public and private schools.

“[The] Fairfax media report plucked statistics from the HILDA survey to attack public education,” wrote Tom Greenwell, the AEU’s communications and research officer.

“As the HILDA authors helpfully explain, their statistics come with the caveat that ‘there is a greater than 95% probability the true quantity lies within 50% of the estimated value’.

“There’s a nearly 5% possibility that the true value is even further out. So even just on the basis of the HILDA survey’s findings, it could be that reported bullying is higher in Catholic schools than public schools.”

Greenwell referred to the Safe Schools Coalition, an initiative designed to help schools be safer and more inclusive for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, school staff and families.

“Any bullying occurring in schools is deeply troubling. It’s important it’s brought to light. It’s essential everything is done to stop it. Great initiatives like the Safe Schools Coalition are aimed at exactly that,” Greenwell wrote.

“However, precisely because the issue of children being bullied is so important it needs to be discussed in a manner that is thoughtful, nuanced and comprehensive.”